In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest.Henry Miller

Living in Ohio my entire life and residing in the Columbus area for the last 16 years, I have developed a love-hate relationship with the Arnold Classic. If I do not have a strong reason to go, I will not attend. Even when we have team members competing, I don’t want to go. I do anyway, because I want to support the team. When you are the founder of the company, you’re kind of expected to show up.

As I have many times over the years, I forced myself to go to the Arnold last weekend. Why do I dislike this so much? Well, if you have been to more than one you already know. To keep this brief, I have better things to do than to start and stop walking, and side step people just to walk to the bathroom. The smell of spandex gives me a headache, and the number of weirdos tops the charts. This sums up the hate part of this relationship.

What I love about the Arnold Classic is watching those who represent team elitefts™. Since the first powerlifting event in the mid 2000s, I have seen team members do AMAZING things. I have seen them break world records. I have seen them get injured. I have seen them have good days, and bad days. I have seen them work together to achieve goals. I have seen them work together to help others achieve goals. I have seen them treat everyone with respect. Every year, there are things that extend deeper than numbers. These are the things that make team elitefts™.


Going In: Great Expectations. By all accounts, everything went perfectly for Clint Smith, last year’s XPC champion in the 242 pound class, this time around. From his training cycle to his warm-ups at the meet, all systems were right on point. What happened, then? Sports. In any athletic competition, you never know what’s going to happen until you actually get going—and this time around, the result didn’t match the perfection of his preparation. And that, as they say, is why we play the game.

Coming Out: “This meet is a reminder that failure is part of the game. You try to learn from it what you can, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards no matter how well your training and preparation go. I thought my training was spot-on, and that my weight cut was fine. Instead of looking for reasons why I failed, however, I’ll just try to learn lessons for the future.”

I have followed Clint’s training log and have seen him lift several times over the past few months. Out of all the guys on the team, he was “ready.” His body and mind were set for a great day, and after his first-place finish last year, we all expected him to come in and kick ass. When the day came, it just wasn’t in the cards. There is absolutely no reason why. It just wasn’t there. This reminds me of a quote from the movie Any Given Sunday.

“On any given Sunday you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose. The point is – can you win or lose like a man?” — Tony D’Amato

What makes me so proud of Clint is he did lose “like a man.” No excuses, no throwing a fit. He didn’t even look pissed off. He took it in stride because he knows in this sport, on any given Sunday…


Going In: Brian’s Carroll's journey back to the platform was one of the overriding themes at this year’s XPC Finals. After taking a year away from the platform to rehabilitate multiple serious back injuries, perhaps the most compelling question at Columbus Veterans Memorial was whether Brian would be able to return to the mix at 275. The verdict? He’s on his way back.

Coming Out: “I squatted 1070, missed with 1135, then passed on a third. I benched 800 and 825. Unfortunately the benches flared my back up, and I decided not to deadlift even though I was in first place overall. I was having a hard time even getting down to the bar without compromising my back, so I knew the smart, professional call was to swallow my pride and shut it down. Overall, this one stayed aligned with my goals: to come back, stay healthy, and win meets. This was the first step in getting back to that point.”

To this day, I still remember standing next to Brian at the WPO finals in 2007 (he bombed out). He was competing against Matt Kroc that day. He wasn’t happy about bombing out, but he was humble. The Brian you see today is not the same Brian I met all those years ago. Today I see a lifter who is still very driven, has been humbled, enjoys helping other lifters, and has bounced back from adversity. The Brian I see today will continue to grow because he has discovered that he doesn’t know all the answers, but he has learned how to find them.

I have been proud of many lifts that Brian has posted over the years, but the one I am most proud of is his 145-pound deadlift at the XPC Finals Sunday. If you don’t know Brian’s history, check this out. His lift took courage, intelligence, pride, and every other attribute elitefts™ stands for. Brian made a smart decision at a time that it would have been far easier to do the stupid thing and risk future injury.

He may have placed behind everyone else, but from an ambassador standpoint in a sport built on ego and pride, Brian led from behind.


Going In: In terms of absolute strength levels, Chad Walker might just be the strongest member of the elitefts™ team. The big issue here, however, is technique, i.e., learning the technical points of each lift to the extent where his numbers actually match up with how strong he is. The goal, then? Stop taking it for granted.

Coming Out: “Going into meets, I know what I need to work on, and the biggest thing for me is always trying to avoid taking my strength for granted, as though it’s going to carry me through any technique issues that come up. I’ve totaled 2733, and I went into this meet thinking my strength would automatically get me there, at minimum. The goal now is to stop doing that, and to refine my technique to the point where my numbers line up with what I’m really capable of doing.”

When I spoke with Chad after the meet, I asked what he thinks he needs to work on. With most of the team in victory or defeat, the first thing they want to know is how they can get better. This has been my life since ’83, so if I do not know the answer, I have suggestions.

What impressed me with Chad is that he already knew the answer. He told me he needed to stop taking his strength for granted. Last week, I was shown an article based on the theory of Marginal Gains. While I do agree with some parts of this theory, one HUGE aspect that gets left out is that getting back to your 100% isn’t easy. In sports, it is not easy at all, and one thing that is for certain is that you can NEVER assume you are always at your best. In training, business, and life, you need to keep solid indicators that measure where you are. This is what keeps you on track and moving forward.

Knowing that Chad realizes this impressed me and is one reason he is part of team elitefts™.


Going In: This was going to be the year where we found out, finally, what Dave Kirschen was truly capable of. He’s turned in some terrific performances in the past, but they’ve all been done despite something. Whether it’s been uncertainty with work, or the pressures of starting a family, Dave has always had multiple things going on during his meet prep periods. That wasn’t the case this year, and his result—a 9-for-9 day and first place in the 198 pound class—demonstrated the spectacular ability we’ve all expected from Dave for years.

Coming Out: “This was by far my best meet performance to date, but I still see some glaring weaknesses I need to address—most notably my back health. Since I’m automatically qualified for next year’s Arnold, I’m probably going to take a year off from full meets. Since it seems to be the bench press that aggravates it the most, I’m going to experiment with a flat-footed style to see if reducing the arching addresses the pain.”

I could write an entire book on Dave. Where to begin? I first met Dave in the mid-nineties when he was a yearly visitor of Westside. He took on the nickname “Little Dave.” He also proudly wore his wife beater tanktop to display his jacked 12-inch arms. Let’s just say that “Little Dave” wasn’t the strongest visitor we saw at Westside. Years went by and I lost touch with Dave until one day I read the APF Senior National Results and saw that “David Kirschen” won his class. As I have told Dave, I didn’t believe it and had to call John Bott to see if this was the same guy. It was! To totally insult Dave, it was a shock.

I sent Dave an email to congratulate him, because not only was this a great achievement, but I also knew where he started from and how hard he had to work to get where he was. Dave wasn’t done shocking me. We had him out to a Learn to Train Seminar and I stuck him in my station because I wasn’t sure how good of a coach he was going to be. When it comes to our seminars, I don’t joke around when it comes to coaching. I personally make sure that we have two world class coaches at each station, and then other solid coaches who are there to help but also to learn from those teaching. After a few rotations, I let Dave step in to coach and he impressed me. This isn’t easy to do, as we have a team of some of the best technical coaches of the powerlifts you will ever find. Dave was impressive—very impressive. That is when I realized how much of an asset to the team Dave was and would be.

Then life hit. Without getting into details, “Little Dave” grew up, got married, had a kid, and moved in and out of the strength and fitness industry. Toss in bouts of adversity here and there, and the last few years for Dave were not the easiest of his life. Dave has finally found some balance in his life and it showed through in the great meet he had.

Every great total does not mean that the lifter is “balanced,” and a bad total doesn’t means the lifter lacks “balance.” For Dave, though, balance played a HUGE role in having the day that he had. This is a very powerful lesson that will serve Dave well as he moves forward in the sport and becomes a better coach. This provides a great reminder to us all that striving for balance can serve us in all areas of our lives.


Going In: Chase Karnes's overall strength levels had him listed as one of the favorites in this competition, but with only two weight classes in play, he was forced to either cut from nearly 220 pounds to 185, or skip the competition altogether. He was also competing indoors on a concrete floor for the first time, against competitive veterans who knew how to make the necessary environmental adjustments.

Coming Out: “My takeaway for this event was that you have to know how to compete under different conditions from what you’re used to. I wasn’t used to competing at this weight, and after cutting, I found that my lever belt wasn’t even tight—and I had to take out a screwdriver and adjust it. Also, from now on, in any dumbbell press event, I’m going to ask the head judge to tighten the collars on the dumbbell before I lift.”

I wasn’t able to see Chase’s events because I was at the powerlifting event, but the other team and staff members kept me updated with his progress throughout the day. Chase really took on a challenge with this one. From cutting weight to leaving his wife at home (who is due with their first child any day now), to this being his first indoor competition, this was not an easy day. As I write this I am still seeing messages and emails regarding the great character Chase displayed.

Chase is one of our younger team members, and what I am most impressed about is that he knows he has more to learn, and has already broken down what he needs to do to compete better next time. His commitment to education will pay off as his experience continues to grow. Chase is one of our most popular authors on the site, and knows what he needs to do to get stronger. If he doesn’t know what he needs to do, he knows who to ask. I am really looking forward to seeing how he progresses in the sport and in this industry. He may not have had the day he would have liked, but he gained experience. We at elitefts™ are very excited about Chase’s future.


Walking away from powerlifting isn’t an easy decision. In fact, it’s not something you just decide to do. This has been something Adam Driggers has been thinking about for a long time, and it’s something he’s discussed at length with his family and friends. Unless you’ve been in his shoes, you really have no idea how difficult this is to do. It sucks to not go out on your own terms, and it’s something that never leaves you. Going out on his own terms was Adam’s sole purpose in doing this meet. Last year, Adam had to be carried off the platform because of back injuries he’s been dealing with for years. This sport takes its toll on everyone, and the older you get, the more you have to pay. Adam didn’t want to go out like that. He wanted one more shot at not being carried off the platform, so he spent most of the past year resting, rehabilitating, and getting his body back together for this one last try. Month after month, he learned what he needed to do in order to keep moving forward—finally, he says, learning how to train effectively and efficiently.

What does it take for a veteran to tell you he’s “finally figured out it”? A hell of a lot, because very few athletes or coaches reach that point of mastery. That’s what makes Adam a great coach, too. Adam may not have won the competition, but he won anyway. He did what he wanted to do, and came back. He wanted to be better than he was last year, and he is. He did it the way he wanted to do it.

When you see Adam, don’t ask him about retirement, or whether this was really his last meet. Instead, congratulate him on what he did achieve by training for this meet over the past year. That’s important, because the things he’s learned, he’ll use with everyone who ever asks him how to become stronger.

This was Adam’s best year in the sport, because he did it all on his own terms.





On Sunday morning at the elitefts™ S4 Compound gym, several younger team members got together for an impromptu Underground Strength Session. In attendance were team members Joe Schillero, Alexander Cortes, Brandon Smitley, Casey Williams, and Jennifer Petrosino.

“Squatted this morning at the Arnold UGSS. Nothing beats getting advice and spots from some of the smartest and strongest in the world. Got a lot of good things to work on from Dave Tate and Ted Toalston today. Blessed to be a part of this team.” — Joe Schillero

“It was a great weekend helping out with some of the veterans at the XPC meet. There were some things I picked up from watching them on meet day that I’ll definitely be able to use in future meets. The UGSS session was a lot of fun. I got to talk to more people this time around, and I think we all can learn a lot from each other. I’m looking forward to LTT 8 in April.”— Casey Williams

Elitefts™ has had team members since 2002. We currently have team members ranging in age from early 20’s to 70’s. Last Sunday, I sat back and listened to our younger team members as they trained, ate donuts, and conducted a Q&A roundtable. While I am pretty sure I was the oldest person in the room, I also realized that if you added up all of their competitive and training experience my background still exceeds all of theirs combined. Yet I was asking them questions about training, exercise science, and nutrition. They are so far ahead of where I was at their age. It is encouraging.

As I stood there, I drifted back in time 15 years and thought about the group I was a part of. I thought of what we have done for elitefts™, as well as what we have all done on our own. I am not one to say that we changed the industry, as I feel the industry will always change. The bigger challenge is to not let the industry change you. The experience of those who sat in front of me was on par with those of us 15 years ago, but what struck me was that they lacked the egos we all seemed to have. Their intelligence (not just book smarts but also real knowledge of training) is way ahead of where we were at their age.

The Arnold Classic weekend was a surreal experience for me. I spent two days helping the veterans of the sport, seeing their victories and adversity, and being damn proud of how they represented elitefts™. This company is about so much more than numbers, and this is what sets us apart from everyone else. Aside from that, I want to spend my life surrounded by great people, and these guys are among the best people I know. To then spend the next day with all of the up-and-comers on the site and to see the same values, commitment to education, and camaraderie is more than encouraging. Knowing that these team members will continue to study, learn, and ask questions ensures the quality of the content that you will find on elitefts™. Knowing what they lack the most (experience) is just one call, email, or text away from one of our older team members is something I am very proud of.

Based on what I have seen this past weekend, the vision of elitefts™; to Live, Learn, and Pass On, has NEVER been strong(er) than it is now. The future of elitefts has NEVER been brighter than it is RIGHT NOW. I am very proud of the team we have and honored to have them.